Monthly Archives: April 2020

My First (Possible) Coronavirus

Me as a (possible) Covid-19 patient, day 2.

Before I got it, I was curious about what it involved, what I could expect.

One Friday I got a sore throat. I took a Strepsil and forgot about it.

That evening I still had it, so I popped another Strepsil.

On Saturday after breakfast my boyfriend and I were sitting, looking at the rain and wondering what to do. My boyfriend went on the laptop and I was on my phone.

I started coughing and had a drink, maybe that would help.

It didn’t.

The coughs were continuous and dry…

After a while I started to feel tired and went to sit on the sofa, hoping that would help.

It didn’t.

I started to feel exhausted. My boyfriend insisted that I was “putting it on”.

“I’m going to bed” I announced suddenly, and he looked up anxiously. It was an effort even to sit up.

It had hit me out of nowhere, what was going on? I felt like I’d just got off a plane from the Philippines again, heavily jet-lagged.

I lay down and that was it, I was in bed for the next five days, apart from some sunbathes in the garden. I was able to do this because I had several hours each day where the coughs eerily disappeared, so I felt less tired. I hoped that my body hadn’t stopped fighting it, whatever it was.

I begged my boyfriend not to go to work but he did and I was alone.

I had to drag myself out of bed and rest regularly as I hauled myself downstairs, leaning heavily on the banisters as if I had rapidly aged overnight. By the time I got back up I was wheezing so much I felt like I was breathing through a straw. Sometimes I had to cough to breathe, I was so constricted, and that was quite alarming. But the advice I saw online was that you only needed to go to hospital if you felt tingling in your fingers or toes or had blue lips, and it wasn’t that bad. My extremities were still being adequately oxygenated and I reminded myself that I didn’t have a temperature, so it was only “mild”.

Pull yourself together, I told my inner child. No need to be a drama llama.

My chest hurt as I coughed roughly every ten minutes for three days. On the second day, my friends dropped off a care package and it gave me such a boost. I was able to talk to them from the upstairs window. I fortunately had a welcome break from the symptoms at that point, another weird window where it felt like I wasn’t ill.

On the fourth and fifth day the fatigue worsened and I was quite weak. Once I couldn’t even turn over in bed. I got tired having more than one chat on the phone each day. I am usually someone that is lively and energetic but this had really floored me. The last time I had been that ill was when I was seven and laid up for two weeks with pneumonia.

On the sixth day I was feeling better until I had a shower and had a dizzy spell. But I was no longer coughing all the time so I had more energy. I was able to stay up and out of bed until 3pm, when fatigue bowled me over, literally.

So I spent a total of three days coughing, five days in bed and 11 days later I am finally feeling more human, and have put my first clothes wash on in two weeks.

I don’t qualify for a test, so I do not know if that was the dreaded coronavirus.

What helps?

Vicks vapour rub is all you need if you have it mildly, the essential oil vapours are helpful. Lying on two pillows allows you to breathe easier too. Paracetamol helped my boyfriend lower his temperature, it brings it down by half a degree. Please note that I did not use any extra toilet roll.

Keep your immune system supported with exercise, sleep, fruit and vegetables and you might only get “mild” symptoms too, if you get it.

Even though I can go out again soon, I will take more time to rest first, as I do not want to get another infection while my immune system is recovering. It will take me another week to get better whilst I replenish energy levels.

How did I get it?

I had gone shopping 12 days before in a busy supermarket, but that seemed unlikely to be the transmission event as it was so long before.

I may have been infected over the Easter weekend when we went out every day on the bikes. Some cyclists had passed right by me, breathing heavily. But that was an unlikely source too. It was a mystery.

I had been so careful – wiping and spraying everything from the supermarket, washing hands on entry to the house, staying away from people, but it had been useless.

I am just relieved to be through the worst and to have got off lightly. I know someone that has sadly passed away from it, so I am well aware that not everyone is so lucky.

In memory of those who didn’t make it.

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The Philippines – Cebu City

En route – Singapore Airport’s Butterfly House

It was my first holiday alone and I was nervous. Would I be safe?

I’d survived the 20 hour flight, thanks to a Singapore Airlines voucher giving me a free shower, like the relief of a wash after a festival.

Cebu City is a bustling, chaotic, hot, noisy, dusty city of around 100,000 people packed into a small space.

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My Grab app would not give me an option to hail a taxi so I got a metered one. “Make sure the meter is running when you get in” Lonely Planet advised, so I checked.

The driver, Marlin, had a side business as a tour guide. He put the price up by 200 pesos (about £3). When I asked why he said “I haven’t changed the sign yet.” He had two children, a girl of 4 and a boy age 14. The girl had been a surprise and he was still paying off the emergency caesarian.

Rows of cars trailed as far as the eye could see until the early hours. My tour guide dropped me off at 5pm and didn’t get home at midnight, on Valentines Day.

He was back to pick me up at 9am “no problem with traffic this morning, I come straight here!”.

It was cheaper than official tours and more flexible. I could go where I wanted, when I wanted. I could have lunch with him at McDonalds or nothing, as we didn’t have enough time, so I passed. After the 20 hour plane journey I still couldn’t stomach a burger.

Grey oblong concrete blocks rose into the sky, but they weren’t very high. It was an urban jungle.

There were only some skyscrapers in the Central Business District, and a mall which only took cash. Fortunately the restaurants outside it took card payments, as you got charged for withdrawals unless you used the HSBC ATM kiosk at the back round the corner.

There were no lanes on the roads and scooters, bikes and rickshaws were weaving around and jeepneys which are open air vans, their buses.

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We drove first to the Taoist temple, built in 1967 in one of the wealthiest areas, the gated hilltop community of Beverly Hills. Surrounded by the first bit of greenery I saw, skyscraper fingers framed the horizon. There were pagodas, dragons on the roofs and fountains. I admired the painted ceilings in the tranquillity.

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We then went to the city’s museum, a former American jail. It explained the history of Cebu and the islands, from the original bamboo and flax huts and reliance on fishing, to a failed invasion of Cebu by the Portuguese who were beaten by machetes, and then the Spanish in 1521, who decided to have an artillery attack from the boat before coming ashore and taking over with the famous Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese national, as their captain.

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They brought Catholicism and they are said to have found a figure of the baby Jesus, the “Santo Nino” and that this kept them safe. The five walled watch tower on Panglao and the fort of San Pedro did as well. Eventually the Philippines wanted independence from Spain and there were frequent uprisings. In this climate the Americans came and conquered the islands with the help of the rebels, in 1901 after a two year war. But hopes of independence were dashed as the Americans took over. 

The island nation then fell to the Japanese in December 1941, who established strict military rule in which anyone carrying local banned currency was killed. But the money continued to be used in the black market. Notices were put up everywhere warning of heavy physical punishment for any disobedience. Some locals were put in Prisoner Of War camps and there was a shirt there from someone that had worked in it for five months without being given another. They were beaten regularly by the fearsome Kempe-tei, the prison guards. The Americans helped the guerilla Filipinos once more, and this time The Philippines were granted independence, in 1946.

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There was a chronological trail of artefacts, from Japanese guns to a ceremonial Afghan sword bought from merchants.

I realised I’d been about two hours and felt guilty, it must be hot waiting in that car. The driver was cross, “you take too much time, we late now, you must go faster”.

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We stopped at the Basilica, a church with a piece of cross in it apparently from Magellan’s voyage, but I couldn’t find it! I saw the replica, which was enclosed in a stone dome with a nice painted ceiling. Then I queued up to see the holy relic, the Santo Nino, said to be found by the Spanish when they first landed and which brought good luck to the locals, as they all kissed and touched the glass, muttering and crossing themselves. There was a prayer area outside with stone carvings of what I had just seen and the arrival of the Spanish.

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I then visited a recent towering monument built in the 1990s, showing the settlement story, mostly with figures and with some boats and buildings. The Santo Nino was there as it is in every historical depiction.

Down the road on the right was the oldest house. We had been by the oldest street, a wide road with grey concrete blocks on either side. It was one of the ugliest cities I had seen, but the pleasant kind people I met made up for it. I got approached repeatedly by the same man to buy plastic pearls. Once in the house I was given a tour in English. It had been bought from the Filipinos by Chinese merchants in the 1600s. They had decorated the house with jade ornaments and intricately patterned blue and white vases. It had then stayed in the family for generations. The house was made of thick wooden beams and it was cooler than outside but still warm and airless.

Outside a father and son were playing a duet on a small harp and ukelele. The boy was about four and had obviously had a lot of practice.

I went to another old house, Casa Gorado. I am not sure how old as I was concentrating on the animation on the board in front, which showed how the Spanish had moved the Cebuanos up the hill away from the fishing by the coast, to land that they could not farm because the soil was unsuitable. They could grow corn though. The Spanish arrived in 1565, setting fire to a village and blasting another with cannons. Then Chinese merchants began to settle in the 1600s and they were allocated a part of town near the Cebuanos, but they were only allowed to trade if the changed their surname to a Spanish one and converted to Catholicism.

We finished the tour with the San Pedro fort. It looked grand from the outside but once in it was just the wall and nothing much was left. It isn’t worth visiting, but it is a good stop if you want to be near the port, as you go up the drive and right and it is down the road a short distance on foot.

My taxi driver decided to be honest and stick to his original price, so I paid him the inflated amount he first quoted in appreciation. I navigated the poorly signed full port and off I went over a smooth sea to Tagbilaran…

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